Gritty and gruesome, a review of Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.

Jamaica Inn: terrifying, thrilling, tempestuous. It’s Wuthering Heights but with characters you can actually relate to.

I’ve been away and without my computer, but I have not been idle. I have read my way through Jamaica Inn and am actually well on my way through my next book – but enough of that, there is far too much to be said about the brilliant Jamaica Inn.

It’s the second novel I’ve read by Daphne du Maurier and I think it deservedly wins the In my good books… award for most gripping book so far. From page one I was hooked on this story, it has just the right mixture of intrigue and suspense, with a refreshingly courageous narrator…Mary Yellan, undoubtedly worthy of the word ‘heroine’. Yipeee, my prayers have been answered. Yes, for me, Mary is my favourite heroine of all the book’s I’ve blogged about so far. She’s no insipid pushover, but a tough, shrewd woman who has full command of her senses.

But Jamaica Inn has many more jewels in its crown, aside from its praiseworthy heroine. I really loved the landscape of this book. Du Maurier’s depiction of the desolate moorland surrounding Jamaica Inn plays a really powerful role in the story. Like the looming presence of Rebecca de Winter in Rebecca, the landscape of Jamaica Inn acts as an almost menacing force encircling the Inn and trapping Mary like a canary in a cage…just how long can she breathe the dangerous, stale air of her Uncle’s home before she suffocates. But the moors of Cornwall are not totally bereft of hope for our heroine, I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that du Maurier scatters just enough hope for Mary that you never feel that she is helplessly damned to remain in the shadow of Jamaica Inn.

I cannot go on without mentioning some of the other fantastic characters from this book. Joss Merlyn, Mary’s menacing Uncle, makes a very believable (and, consequently, far more intimidating) sub-villain. I say ‘sub-villian’ instead of just villain because Joss Merlyn is a complicated man and a complicated character. He definitely won’t be checking-in to heaven any time soon, but du Maurier draws him well, he’s not purely evil. For one, Joss makes no effort to conceal his nasty nature and never speaks a kind word to anyone, but we do see him tortured by his deeds and seeking escape from his past. His cruelty to Mary’s Aunt, Patience, is sad to behold but he recognises Mary’s mind and willpower and respects her for them. I think Heathcliff has a new rival. I don’t want to say too much, but Joss Merlyn is by no means the only human terror that dwells in the land between Truro and Bodmin and, though she is often blind to it, Mary treads some very dangerous paths. Du Maurier’s characterisation is truly superb.

I really do recommend Jamaica Inn, it’s a fantastic book. To be honest, I am at a loss to understand why it seems to have spent its life skulking in Rebecca’s shadow. In my opinion, it’s a far superior book. It has real grit and gravitas. It should definitely be up there alongside the Bronte’s novels, every bit as good as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, it has kept my interest far more than any of the books I’ve read during the last six months. I just can’t believe I’d left it lying around in a pile of books beside my bed for so long.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m also well along my way to finishing my next book. Having seen the recent trailers for the film…I decided not to go and see it, but to read the book instead…David Nicholls’ One Day. I’ll save my opinions for my next post, but I will say, so far…it ain’t bad.



Filed under 20th century, Books, Daphne Du Maurier, Fiction, Novel

2 responses to “Gritty and gruesome, a review of Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.

  1. D Ratcliffe

    Read J I 4 times now. Amazing. I have many Daph du. Do read The Kings General. Flight of the Falcon and the House on the Strand (about mind altering drugs) Daph Should be up there with Brontes etc. Latest TV adaption 2014 is all wrong. Joss not big or scary enough.. Patience not cowed or nervous enough. There was no hotel room or sex. Patience never went to the beach. Mary never helped tow in anything from the sea.The vicar of Altarnum was an albino. Many other omissions and add ons. Daphne would roll over. A travesty. I shall not watch the final two. I had been looking forward to the programme for ages..


  2. Alice Baird

    I have just finished reading this book and, I must say, I agree with you! I am considering recommending this book for my book club for next year. We’ve not read any book even remotely like this one, and I think the women would enjoy the change!


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